A response to social integration

I was going to write the following as a Facebook reply on Andrei Bara’s post about social integration in the UK, where he states that he is considering moving out of UK after graduating, because of the increased social pressure that Romanians face there. Unfortunately, I am a blabber-mouth and decided that the text was too long for people who are not interested in it (nonetheless, I will leave a link there).

This text is in English because the conversation I am talking about is in English, but let me first apologize to my Romanian readers for the language switch: Textul este în limba engleză pentru că se referă la o conversație pe Facebook în care interlocutorii nu sunt în totalitate români. Vă rog să mă scuzați, voi încerca să îl traduc ulterior și în limba română.

Andrei, I believe this problem of yours is a consequence of high intellect. Thing is, society screwed up smart, intelligent and over-achieving people. At least in our country, the one thing repeated to us from infancy is that if one has all these three magic ingredients:

  • willpower to study
  • inner ,“sparking”, smartness
  • and the luck to achieve something

that the world would stand in awe of those people and they would deserve to be treated well. Wait, not well, better than anyone else. They are instantly integrated into society because society cares about raising its geniuses, they will have respect, social status, money, they will go on vacations, own cars and have nice houses. Unfortunately, although the money, the house and the vacations are achievable, they are only so because they strictly depend on that person or family of “geniuses”. Society does not work that way.

And believe me, I am trying to face this problem as bravely as I can. I too consider myself to be at the top levels of the intellectual pyramid. I know this sounds like I am egotistical and that other people should evaluate me on this matter, that I do not “have the right” to say that I am smart and achieving. But let me justify myself in another blog post, because this one post is about two things:

  1. why this expectation of ours is wrong
  2. and the sordid affair of dealing with society as a disappointed person.

1. Around my 18th birthday, I got into libertarianism*. It fit me perfectly from a political point of view. Now, libertarianism goes hand in hand with democracy and non-discrimination, which is a tricky issue, because people usually like the theories and ideologies that favour them, and discrimination was something almost favourable to me (yeah, I know, except the woman thing). I mean, society should have treated me fantastically, because I am a smart achiever and all that, right? Wrong.

Society’s purpose, no matter how tough that sounds to people who are positively discriminated against(?), is not to make any judgement calls on the value of a person. No, we do not like geniuses more than we like street cleaners and taxi drivers. The smart overachievers make their own success (see the part about house, car, vacations etc.), but do not deserve special attention, at least not from the entire society, as we we taught that it would be.

Often it is not-so-smart people who are happier and better integrated. They simply fit, and not because they do something in particular. They are not geniuses. They. Just. Fit. Try reading Flowers for Algernon**, it is the SF story of a man who implants intelligence into himself and it doesn’t turn out to be as great as he thought. It is a personal favourite of mine.

I am still torn between my political/social ideology and my ego. My view on society says we all deserve equal oportunities. My ego says I am the best and I deserve the best.

2. I recently faced disappointment at my University. I studied very hard on my own for an exam. I was very interested on the subject and, after months of preparing and an exam session spent mostly awake studying that particular field, I recieved a mark which I think does not reflect my knowledge. I don’t even think the professor read my paper. (Spare me the “go to him and ask for re-examination”, because that is not how it works here. I have another subject with him later and if I make a scandal out of this paper I will never pass the other subject. There are also other reasons, but that is not the point at hand.) I was gloomy for a very long time. Not because of the mark, because even with that I still have general good grades and did not affect me. But because of the system. The system that holds you down and does not let you express your academic interests. The system that cares not I could have been a researcher or a University teacher someday. The system that shuns away people who study and think, while embracing those who learn by heart and/or cheat on exams. Recall that I said society has no preference for intelligent people. Well, that is exactly what Universities should do... I was gloomy and I still am (though recovering), because I find myself in the excruciating position of not being able to do anything about it.

I wanted to go to the UK for my studies, when I finished high-school. I was accepted at some Universities but finally decided to stay and change society. I had the illusion that if me and some other smart overachievers stay here, we could in fact change things. We could create, with our youth, passion and power, a Romania from which people need not run anymore. And now I am terribly depressed that it was only that... An illusion.

So what do I do? Do I go “Fram, the Polar Bear”***? I do not fit here, but where do I fit? Darling you’ve got to let me know, should I stay or should I go? ...This is a time for me to reconsider my options and either leave sometimes in the future, or try, try, try again to understand that society can’t integrate me (or you, Andrei), just because we are intelligent, assertive, achieving people.

* Quick recap: libertarianism is when the government doesn’t aim at telling people what to do, they are free to make good and/or bad decisions in life, as long as they do not harm others.
** read the short story, it's more concise. For Romanian speakers (readers), here is a link for that on my Dropbox.
*** "Fram, Ursul Polar", Romanian novel by Cezar Petrescu about a polar bear, taken as a cub to a circus. He likes it, but after a while he does not feel at home there, so he is taken back to the north pole. Unfortunately, it is not "home" there either, as he now misses the circus and lacks the skills other bears have developed in the wild. It is a story about ever-drifting and never feeling at home.